Sunday 19 – Monday 20 August 2018
He hadn’t moved this fast in months. Nyssa’s distraught voice at the other end of the phone forced him into action. For the first time since the dreams began, Vincent was getting out of the house. Unable to find his sunglasses, the sunlight made him squint. His eyes closed momentarily as he stepped outside, but there was no time to allow them to adjust to the bright light. Nyssa needed his help and she needed it now.
Vincent had managed to calm Nyssa enough to get her address and where she hid her spare front door key. Now he had to make the cross-town journey to her home without getting arrested for exceeding the speed limit. He typed her address into the SatNav in his SUV, reversed out of the driveway, and sped off towards Nyssa’s house.
The SatNav told Vincent it would take him 25 minutes to reach Nyssa’s home from his own. In reality, it took him half the time. He was adamant that whatever Nyssa was going through, she wouldn’t have to do it alone.
The short journey from his car to the front stoop of Nyssa’s home to retrieving the key and opening the door all happened, it seemed to Vincent, in slow motion. It was, for him, the longest part of the trip. He hastened inside calling her name, imagining himself as the hero in Nyssa’s story but terrified about what he might find.
‘Hello?’ she responded to his call. ‘I’m in here. In the bedroom.’
Vincent followed the sound of her voice, and found her huddled up against the headboard of the bed. Vincent recognised the manic expression on her face. He’d worn it many times since the nightmares started.
‘I’m Vincent,’ were the only words he could think to say.
‘It’s here,’ she mumbled in reply. ‘It’s here.’
There was no need to say anything further. Vincent knew exactly what she was talking about. He could feel it too.
Warily he stepped further into the room and looked around. He analysed every shadow, every corner, every nook and cranny in Nyssa’s bedroom for any sign of movement but found nothing.
‘Where did you see it last?’ he asked gently.
‘Over there.’ She pointed to the wall length mirror mounted next to her walk-in robe. ‘It was just standing there . . . watching me . . . It was a threat.’
‘I don’t doubt it.’ He looked at the quivering, huddled figure on the bed, her tear streaked face a contorted portrait of a traumatised woman. Vincent scanned the room again. ‘Look, there’s no sign of it being here now. I think it’s gone.’
‘But I can feel it,’ Nyssa snarled.
‘So can I . . . but I can’t see it. So I think it’s gone.’
‘Why can I still feel it?’
‘I don’t know. Maybe some sort of residual sensation of its presence. Jesus, I don’t even know what it is. What is it?’
* * * * *
With her grandmother seated next to her, young Nyssa fiddled with the lace on the hem of her skirt.
‘Leave it alone, child, ‘less you want your fingers to fall off from all that fiddlin’.’ Rancid breath filled Nyssa’s nostrils. She gagged at the stench of her grandmother. Nyssa didn’t know exactly what it smelled like, but she was sure that her grandmother reeked of death.
Cold fingers wrapped around Nyssa’s. She recoiled at her grandmother’s touch but it was too late. The old woman gripped the child’s hands so tightly that Nyssa thought her fingers might fall off.
‘Sit still, girl. I’m not goin’ to tell you again,’ she snarled.
‘Sorry, gran,’ replied Nyssa. The old woman leaned in close to her granddaughter and inhaled the sweet scent of the child.
‘You smell good enough to eat. Better not fall asleep before I have dinner or I’ll eat you right up.’ She cackled like an old witch and it frightened Nyssa more than the words leaking from her mouth.
Nyssa wished more than anything that she could be anywhere else but here right at this moment. The old woman terrified her. She terrified all of her grandchildren but none more so than Nyssa, the smallest, most fragile of all of the children. Nyssa wondered if she wished hard and long enough if she might propel herself into some other reality. Somewhere safe from her grandmother’s clutches. Nyssa knew that what she was wondering was pure fantasy, but her mother had told her that everything was worth trying once.
She’d wish and wish and wish that she could be somewhere else. Anywhere else. Somewhere away from the old woman. Anywhere.
It came to her that night as she laid alone in the cold, dark bedroom in her grandmother’s squalid house. Her beast came to find her.
. . . To be continued . . .